Reality check….

2 Aug

This past week I was browsing around online….stumbled onto a blog (which will remain nameless)…and got a slap-in-the-face style reality check.

This blog, which is fairly popular, has an anti-ABA tone throughout it’s posts. The writer, a mother of an autistic boy, posts about how detrimental she thinks ABA can be. She believes ABA shames it’s learners, it is by nature a “dangerous” treatment and is harmful to those who receive it; she believes it damages a child’s ability to form relationships, it takes away their voice, it’s overall a very limited practice which ruins a parent’s view of their child, and it over-pathologizes children.


What struck me most was that in all of her rants about how terrible ABA is, she didn’t at all express the benefits of ABA or the years of research showing it to be the most effective treatment for individuals with autism. No, she didn’t shed light on any of that. Instead, she put out messages of skepticism and fear, encouraging others to stay away from so-called experts and to question everyone and everything.

Call me naive, but I had no idea parents out there so hated what I do for a  living. I had no idea parents out there call my work dangerous, damaging, and harmful. It really took me down a notch to hear that not everyone thinks what I do is as great as I know it is. Sure, I have worked with plenty of parents who don’t think ABA works; who don’t think ABA is valid or something they’d like to commit to. But I have NEVER met a parent who flat out loathed ABA the way this parent does. People out there think my work is emotionally injuring their child? People out there believe my work is taking away their child’s voice? It’s ruining their perception of their child? What????!!!!!????

It’s really sad to me that any parent would choose to focus on the work of a few bad practitioners and thereby discredit the entire field altogether. Would any parent hold doctors to the same standard? If a doctor misdiagnosed, or couldn’t cure a disease, or gave the wrong prescription to his patients…would that mean that ALL doctors are bad? The entire medical profession is tainted? I don’t think so. So I wonder why this is the case with behavior analysis.

It’s also really sad to me because I know the kind of work I do. I know the way I think about and feel about my learners, and I know the ways I have helped them and their families. I know that I use ethical practices that ensure my client’s dignity. I know that I genuinely care, and that I see my clients as people, not as diagnoses.  It’s just a shame that some parents out there are so let-down by some people practicing ABA that they decide the whole science is destructive.

How can I change these parents’ minds? Why do I even feel like I need to? It’s funny, because I’m normally more of a “live and let live” type of girl. Opposing views don’t threaten me; I’m secure in my beliefs and don’t care if people disagree with me. I have no interest in debating people online, and can’t stand when bloggers pick fights that they’re “right” and someone else is “wrong”.  But right now, I find myself feeling very protective of my field. And, I guess I know why. Because I believe in ABA. I believe in it’s power to change lives. So, I feel responsible to untangle the myths and misconceptions about ABA. It’s interesting that this has stirred up in me a desire to defend my position, when I would normally let it roll right off my back. And, while I still respect that everyone has their own values and beliefs, and I would never pick fights or sling mud to be heard, I feel the need to spread the word about the incredible value of ABA. So… that’s my plan.  Stay tuned! I’m on a mission! 🙂


4 Responses to “Reality check….”

  1. Amythest August 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    The community of autistic self-advocates and activists largely detest ABA in both its original and currently practiced form. Because, the thing is, no matter how educated you are, you were educated by a system created by neurotypicals, that is based upon the observation of autistics by neurotypicals, and that is regulated by neurotypicals.

    It’s great that you want to help people, but the only true experts on Autism are autistics, and I’ve yet to meet an Autistic person who supports ABA. It’s not just the parents of autistics you’re trying to “prove wrong”, it’s autistic individuals themselves. You’re claiming to know what’s best for autistics better than autistics. And that, quite frankly, is ridiculous.

    Here is a post by an autistic person on why ABA, complience training, and the practice of stripping autistics of their autonomy and self worth: cr
    That post is a starting place, but I highly reccomend that you look into the writings of actual autistic people, those who have been through ABA and those who have not, before you consider yourself an expert on the subject.

    • angelina258 August 4, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Amythest, thanks for writing me. I have found on Tumblr in particular that those with autism have extremely negative feelings towards ABA. I’m assuming that is where you found my post. I’ve never claimed to know what’s better for autistics than autistics themselves. I have also never claimed to be an expert on autism…I only consider myself well-educated in the science of ABA. What I do know is how the principles of behavior apply to ALL people, and how they can be used to teach people how to get their needs met and how to navigate their environment. I read the post you linked…awful. Tragic. I don’t really have words to say. Like with any field, there are good and bad practitioners. Teaching my clients to say “no” and to refuse things they don’t want is one of the first goals we work on. I plan to expand on this concept of refusal language in a later post. Hope you’ll check back soon.

  2. Cynthia August 5, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    As the parent of an 11 year old with ASD 4 years ago we did intensive ABA (DTT) therapy, my mother in law commented they are breaking his spirit! I did not it that way, my kid needed to learn how to sit, how to be quiet, how to do schoolwork without that intensive therapy it would not have been possible. I heard one person say it is the dog & bone approach! WHAT EVER you want to call it it helped our son tremendously!! We have a BCBA that spends 2 hours a week with us and helps me with problematic behaviors!! I am a fan of ABA!!

    • Lulu August 5, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      Is your child a fan?

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